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IoT For Retail

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In the previous step, you learned about people-centric healthcare. Let’s move on to the retail industry, a customer-centric sector that’s growing exponentially in terms of IoT solution implementation.

The term IoT likely conjures up thoughts of connected stores that use tags to monitor inventory and enable a cashless payment system. Retail has the potential to offer the easiest entry point for an IoT developer since the vertical is so massive in both scope and opportunity. From vending machines to signage, the potential for IoT to disrupt the retail experience–for sellers and consumers–is massive.

While there are others, we can define four main benefits that IoT solutions offer to retailers and customers, as illustrated in this graphic:

This image shows four main benefits that IoT solutions offer retailers and customers

  • Operational efficiency: As we saw with IoT for manufacturing, in the retail space IoT can enable retailers to optimise their staff, delivery, security, and other parts of the supply chain. This ensures the right products are on the shelf at the right time, that customers are kept safe at all hours of the day or night, and that theft and loss are kept to a minimum. Equipping shipping containers that enable stores to track product availability and using cloud-enabled web cameras and mobile devices to enable easier communication with staff and track their hours can reduce the overall load retailers are burdened with.
  • Inventory management: In a Intel paper “Why IoT is a Top Priority for Retail” outlining the benefits of IoT for the retail experience, Intel makes the claim that IoT can help retailers ‘achieve almost 100-percent inventory accuracy.’ This isn’t just about preventing loss using big data; retailers can ensure that the products customers want and care about are always on the shelf and that items purchased less often don’t consume valuable shelf space.
  • Improved customer experience: As we saw above with the Amazon Go store experience, customers can benefit from IoT solutions in retail by being able to purchase the products they want with less hassle. By eliminating checkout lines and the need for customers to carry cash or credit cards, customers save time and are safer when shopping. Privacy is always a concern in these scenarios so IoT architects need to take great care to find the right balance between technological advances and privacy concerns.
  • Cost efficiency and savings: All of the above items should result in more efficient operations and reduce costs in terms of both running the business and supporting customers. Intel goes further and says IoT can be used to ‘lower energy usage by powering down lighting, POS, and HVAC systems’ as well as ‘reduce POS (point of sale) repair costs and downtime’. The idea is that retailers can not only outfit the retail experience with an IoT architecture but outfit the stores themselves to make retail operations ‘smart’.

In the next step, you’re going to have a look at IoT for Smart Cities and Buildings.

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Microsoft Future Ready: Fundamentals of Internet of Things (IoT)

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